How the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected FAU professors

FAU Professors share their teaching experience during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Illustration by J.R. Pfeiffer.

Elliot Rodriguez, Contributing Writer

FAU professors have been forced to swap their whiteboard markers for a computer mouse and a webcam. COVID-19 has made it mandatory for FAU to implement a fully digital way of learning as opposed to the traditional face to face interaction.


Most professors have been affected one way or another by the change, some more than others. Some professors were fortunate enough not to have too many issues, while others have had significantly more trouble with the transition to online teaching.


Aaron S. Veenstra, a Communications and Multimedia Studies professor at FAU, is one of the professors who has had a fairly smooth transition. 


For me, the shift hasn’t been particularly difficult,” Veenstra said. “My wife already worked from home and we don’t have kids, so I don’t have to work around any other kind of schedule changes.”


As of right now, fall classes at FAU have switched over to a virtual option, with the exception of some classes that still require students to attend in person. Unless something is done to limit the number of cases, it seems as if online teaching will be going on for an unspecified amount of time. 


Karen Leader, an Associate Professor of Art History as well as the Director of the Barb Schmidt Fellowship says, “Unless we, as a country, step up and deal with this pandemic and all of its fallout, as the leading nation we are supposed to be, we may be forced to teach online for the foreseeable future. Education ‘reformers’ would have no problem with that, since it is cheaper, and can be monetized. But our children and young people will suffer because socialization happens at school.”


Since the COVID-19 outbreak came at such a quick speed, every student has been affected in some way.


The class subject also plays a factor in online teaching, making it either easier or difficult for the professor. Leader says that she is fortunate that Art History works online because of all the good content that is on the internet such as museums, websites, and high-resolution images. 

Classes such as dance, music, and theatre on the other hand are faced with a challenge. Leader asks, “How do you teach ceramics online?”


In Eric Hanne’s case, a History professor at the Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, he struggles to find the same atmosphere and communication skills that he would find in the classroom when teaching his online classes, which rely heavily on discussion. 


“One of my classes, Islamic Intellectual History, is a discussion-driven course in which we all wrestle with sources in translation talking about quite heady stuff,” Hanne said.


While the switch from in-class teachings to online teaching came as a rapid shock in the spring, many teachers seem to have adapted well according to Hanne. He says that teachers have been going through the required training and assessing what they will be teaching, to better prepare themselves for the fall semester. 


Even though the current future of education seems to be headed towards being strictly online, Hanne states that he does not think that “teaching online” is the future of education. 


“Online education strips humanity away from the process which is the death knell for education as a whole,” Hanne said.


To rebuttal, some professors do see improvement, in particular, the introverted students. 


“I’m respectful of those who do not want to speak up in class, but believe that they find their voice more easily online in discussions,” Leader said. 


Classes, usually lectures, that contain a number of students in them can be quite nerve-racking to students who tend to be more introverted. Online education seems to be a way where they can find their voice and participate in class without everyone’s eyes on them.


Hanne also states that “flexibility, patience, and a positive outlook is the best way for all of us to move forward.” 


Elliot Rodriguez is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].